Weather disasters and climate upheavals could be upcoming as certain systems near their tipping points.
Taking a leap from the pages of a science fiction story, a new model of weather and climate change is showing that there could be a major climatic shift like the one in the movie, The Day After Tomorrow, and the conditions are in place to support it.
Some scientists have predicted that climate change would not continue to progress at a steady rate, but there would be periods of shifts, known as singularities or tipping points, that would be followed by sudden and irreversible catastrophic events, according to an article on salon.com.
Dismissed as unlikely or even impossible, the premise of the film’s story is now being considered as a possibility by researchers looking at weather models focusing on the North Atlantic.
The North American Current is essentially an extension of the Gulf Stream and it carries warmer water from the South Atlantic northward, and in doing so, keeps the European continent temperatures warmer than they would be without the condition.
Known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), this process could be disrupted by significant melting of Greenland ice sheets, which is actually happening today.
The lighter salt-free ice melt water would stay on the surface of the ocean, forcing the warmer salt water from the gulf lower, and reducing the warming of the air over Europe. Scientists say there is evidence this is already happening, citing 2015 is likely to be one of the hottest years on record, despite part of the North Atlantic below Iceland and Greenland recording record low temperatures.
So far, the AMOC hasn’t had a major shutdown, but the increase in melting ice is slowing the process down, and scientists are worrying the Arctic will continue to pour fresh water into the belt, and disrupting the system. That would be what the scientists define as a tipping point, and would trigger even colder European temperatures, but would also raise sea levels on the North American coast, since the flow of AMOC tends to pull water away from that area.